In what was probably the most impressive loss of his career, Shogun Rua pushed Lyoto Machida into unknown territory last Saturday night at UFC 104 and turned in a performance that nearly dethroned the king. Through all the talk of Machida’s “elusiveness” and speed, it was Rua that was able to find holes and avoid damage.
It’s rare when a fighter can look so good in a loss, but Rua was able to do something that no one else could. He hurt Lyoto Machida. In fact, he had him looking downright confused and frustrated for a good portion of the championship rounds. Rua had his timing down perfectly and punished the champ with body kicks all night. Unfortunately though, he didn’t do enough to convince the judges that Machida deserved to lose the belt. It was a close fight and traditional thought dictates that in close fights, the champ gets the nod. It doesn’t make much sense to me, but I’m not the one who makes the rules.
The good news for Rua is that Dana White does make the rules (some of them) and he thinks the decision was bogus too. Immediately after the fight, he was already talking rematch and at the post-fight press conference he told media that both fighters had verbally agreed to give it another shot.
There’s only one problem: Rua might have used up his one chance. For Machida, this was the type of fight that he’s likely to have learned an important lesson from. He learned what it’s like to get pushed and what it’s like to get hit – something that he hasn’t experienced much of in his pro career. If a rematch should happen, he’ll walk into the fight with a level of expectancy that wasn’t there before. He’ll be prepared to take some shots and he’ll hold comfort in the knowledge that he’s been through it before.
What’s more, Rua has lost the element of surprise. He obviously put together a solid game plan and he’s likely to come back with something similar for the rematch. Machida knows this as well as anyone and will be able to prepare accordingly.
It looks like Rua will be walking into the rematch as an underdog once again, but as he showed us on Saturday night, miracles can happen.